Farmers told to be vigilant in face of increasingly sophisticated fraud

There is a 'real threat' from fraud that can be 'devastating' for farm businesses
There is a 'real threat' from fraud that can be 'devastating' for farm businesses

Farmers have been urged to be vigilant and aware in the face of increasingly sophisticated levels of fraud and cybersecurity attacks against the agricultural industry.

Small to medium-sized farming enterprises are targeted at certain times of the year when fraudsters know they have larger income streams, such as when Basic Payment monies are paid.

Criminals stole £1.2 billion through fraud in 2018, with both individuals and businesses falling victim to a range of scams. Banks and card companies prevented £1.66 billion in unauthorised fraud in 2018.1

HSBC UK has urged farmers to be vigilant, and said that this 'very real threat' comes in many forms and can be 'devastating' for those businesses and individuals that fall victim to this kind of fraudulent activity.

Commercial Banking Head of Agriculture, Neil Wilson said: “It might be easy to fall into the trap of thinking ‘it will never be me’, however, these fraudsters are very professional.

“This is their ‘job’ after all, they just need to catch you at a busy moment, or when you are distracted, and they can achieve their own goal very quickly.”

He added: “If you have any suspicion at all that a call or email seems strange or out of place, please hang up and take some time to really think if it all adds up.”

Four types of fraud

HSBC’s warns that farmers are being targeted by four types of fraud.

Business email compromise: A fraudster impersonates a legitimate person and emails a company’s payments team to convince them to make an urgent payment or change account details.

Text and phone scams: Phishing phone calls (‘vishing’) and scam texts (‘smishing’) are cheap and easy attacks to commit. Both can result in theft or fraud by tricking people into installing malware or divulging personal information.

Malware: Just some of the threats include viruses, trojan horses, bots, adware and ransomware. Malware can get into a system through infected hardware or phishing scams, staying hidden among legitimate programs before it’s activated.

Phishing: Phishing emails look real and appear to be from legitimate senders, to entice people to click on malicious links or attachments – in order to steal money or data.

Mr Wilson added: “Farmers can take some simple steps to protect themselves. For example, never disclose security details. Never assume an email or phone call is authentic, fraudsters can falsify phone numbers and pose convincingly as bank employees or other officials.

“Never be rushed or pressured into decisions, particularly about on-the-spot financial transactions or transfers. Stay in control and follow your instincts - if something feels wrong, question it.”

He added: “The threat of cybercrime is very real but taking the right precautions and being wary of any unsolicited approaches can help you keep your business safe – don’t assume, don’t be rushed, never disclose.”